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Monday, July 11, 2016

Adventures Close to Home: Riverside, California - Part 2


Click this link for Riverside, Part 1.

Farmer Boys is a fast food chain in California and Nevada. Just around the corner from our hotel, the Mission Inn, is their corporate headquarters. Next door to that is their flagship store.

Seems like a fitting place to have a quick breakfast so, armed with coupons we received before leaving home, we have a nice plate of French toast and eggs before heading out for the day.


Watch the Video!

We’ll need the energy because we’re climbing a mountain.  Well, mountain might be ambitious…more like a hill…but it’s called a mountain here…Mount Rubidoux.

About ½ a mile due west of the hotel, Mt. Rubidoux has long been a landmark here. Bought by Frank Miller, owner of the Mission Inn at the time, it was used for Easter sunrise services and eventually donated to the city.


Cars used to be able to drive to the summit on a one-way, narrow road.  They’d go up on the north side and descend on the south side. Autos were banned in 1992 but those beautifully paved roads means this is a wheelchair-ready climb.

There are two entrances to the park. The north entrance has no parking so we enter via the south gate which has limited parking and a wheelchair ramp around the gate.

Fellow hikers tell us that the north road is not as steep as the south road so where the two roads meet just a little way up the trail, we switch over to the north road.  Tim tells me that the power meter on his chair has gone down by one bar. No problem, he still has eight left.

The trail winds up through a desert landscape of scrub, cacti, and succulents. Many large rocks also jut out of the ground. At a mile Tim tells me he’s lost another bar.

At a mile and a quarter, Tim…who keeps stopping to check the power meter and starting back up…says he’s lost another one.  I explain to him that all that starting and stopping uses a lot more power than if he were to keep going and not to worry about it unless the power meter turns yellow instead of green.


He keeps going without the constant stop and go. About 2/3 of the way up, we cross over from the east side of the mountain to the west side. We’re treated to views of the Santa Ana River (the river that Riverside is on the side of) and a small airport in the distance. It’s kind of neat to see airplanes flying below you as they enter the pattern for the landing strip.



Near the summit, Tim tells me his power meter has gone yellow. Not wanting to take chances, we stop here. I’ll stay and keep Tim company while Letty will continue to the top and take pictures.



While Tim and I watch planes land below, Letty gets some great pictures at the top.



Here is a bridge where the road winds over itself.



A flag has been planted at the top, with downtown Riverside providing a backdrop.


At the peak, a large cross has been erected.

After Letty gets to the top and back to Tim and I, we head back down.  There’s a saddle not too far from where we waited where Tim and I can get similar views to the top.



We take a few minutes to see the sight and then head back down to the car where it’s back to the hotel.



A short rest and then we’re out to greet the Zombie Apocalypse…



Next to the hotel is the Main Street pedestrian mall. Usually, a quiet place to get a bite to eat or browse for antiques, today it is taken over by hordes of the undead.



It’s the 2nd Annual Zombie Crawl where Riversides most unlively citizens come out to show their moves and try to gross out the living.

Groups have dance offs in the middle of the plaza…mostly to the tune of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”…and compete for the best zombie makeup effects.  There’s even a little workshop on how to do different zombie walks, from the fresh out of the grave shuffle to the running zombie.



It’s all good fun though Tim had to fend off a few zombies trying to eat his brain. We’ll take refuge in the hotel for now.

We’ve got a show to go to but first it’s dinner. Our hotel package came with valet parking and a $50 credit.  The parking has been used over and over. Now, to use that credit.



There are four restaurants at the hotel…Duane’s for steaks, Las Campanas for Mexican (great margaritas, too), Bella Trattoria for Italian…and, our choice, the Mission Inn Restaurant for a little of them all dining under the stars in the beautiful main courtyard.



We start off this this great and different bread basket.



The food is pretty special. While Tim had a basic penne dish, Letty had this fresh fish dish.



I had this savory and juicy roast chicken with some very creamy mashed potatoes.



Well fed, we make our way across the street to the recently restored Fox Theater. Tonight, we’re going to see The Mavericks in concert, who have recently reunited with their singer, Raul Malo.



It’s a great, rocking show but the wheelchair seats are not raised very high so whenever the people in front of us feel like standing up and dancing, which is fairly often, it blocks Tim’s view. He’s not very bothered by it but Letty sure is.



Still, it’s a good show and we have a good time.  We end the night with a bottle of wine back in our roomy, Mission Inn Suite and savor the end of another trip.

Darryl
Copyright 2012 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Sunday, July 10, 2016

THE COCKTAIL HOUR: The Runaway


Greetings from Jamaica! This week's cocktail is our latest invention, the Runaway.

A little background...when we travel, and especially if we have a comped in-room minibar...we like to play around with it and invent a cocktail from the ingredients within.

WATCH THE VIDEO!


This week, we're at the all-inclusive Luxury Bahia Principe resort in Runaway Bay, Jamaica. Our minibar includes a massive bottle of rum, some Coke, Sprite, orange soda, and beer. We augmented this by visiting a nearby market to get some coconut water, lime juice, and orange/pineapple juice.

Using our resort's location for the name, here's what we came up with.

INGREDIENTS

splash of lime juice
splash of coconut water
1 oz. gold rum
1 oz. orange/pineapple juice
top off with orange soda

Mix all ingredients in an ice-filled cup and enjoy.

Cheers!

Darryl

Friday, July 8, 2016

Adventures Close to Home - Riverside, California


We tend to take our local area for granted, don’t we? Anything within an hour’s drive seems like home to us and just doesn’t pop up on our travel radar.

People don’t go to Riverside, California from Los Angeles unless they have a reason to. Same with me…in good traffic, it’s less than an hour’s drive. Heck, I’ve worked in downtown Riverside off and on for the last ten years periodically.  I know what’s there…don’t I? I don’t need to go there on a vacation …do I?

Watch the Video!



Apparently, I don’t know as much as I thought. A recent weekend in the city had us begging to come back for more.
Originally, this was supposed to be a trip to Scottsdale. The peg for the trip was to see the Mavericks…one of our favorite bands…who have recently reunited with singer Raul Malo.  They were playing at the Arizona State Fair this week and it made for a convenient excuse to go.


Recently, however, the band added a couple of shows closer to home. Even though the prices are more expensive here in California, our recent spate of $5-per-gallon gas prices had us re-evaluating. It was also enticing that we’d be able to see our concert in a 1,600 seat theater from the 9th row rather than an 18,000 seat arena.
I’m saving a ton of money by going local for two nights instead of four nights in Arizona.  Works out about the same time to do things when you factor in that we don’t have to have two all day drives to get there and back. Riverside is less than an hour.


Since I am saving so much money on gas, food, and hotel, I’m able to splurge on a suite at the historic and beautiful Mission Inn Hotel and Spa, where I’m able to book their “Fall Back in Time” promotion which includes a $50 resort credit and free valet parking.
Before check-in, though, we exit at Holt off of the 60 freeway. The roofs of warehouses stretch out for a mile in front of us. Hard to imagine anything worth stopping here for.

A quick right turn leads us onto a bumpy and rutted road, filled with eighteen wheelers. A dusty and dilapidated auction on the right, a Costco warehouse on the left, and then the road I’m looking for , Wineville.


It’s a stop back in time at the Galleano Winery in Mira Loma, a few acres of farm that time forgot wedged here between the freeways, factories, and warehouses.  Although it’s been here longer than any of them, it seems wildly out of place.



Some tastes of their award-winning varieties, buying up some of their great and cheap Chianti and old vine zinfandel, and we’re back on our way. (You can see and read more about the incredible Galleano and Fillipi Wineries in our report, “California’s Hidden Wine Country”)


With a little time to kill once we get to our destination, we head to the corner of Magnolia and Arlington for a historic and easily overlooked landmark. There are three citrus trees fenced in a tiny little grove here, a grapefruit tree and two navel orange trees.


While I don’t know what the significance is of the grapefruit tree or the smaller orange tree, the larger of the navel trees has a bit history behind it. This is the Parent Navel Orange Tree.


Navel oranges are famously seedless, therefore you can’t propagate them sexually. Instead, they must be cloned by cuttings or grafting. The old tree, brought here in 1870 from Bahia, Brazil, is the tree that spawned all of the other navel orange trees in California, creating a huge industry.




Somehow, it still survives after all these years, although a second tree transplanted to the Mission Inn by President Teddy Roosevelt didn’t live long after that misbegotten attempt to create a tourist attraction. 
Speaking of the Mission Inn, we are now driving under the arched entrance to the valet parking area. A tall, dapper man in a crisply pressed suit opens our door and asks the purpose of our visit. We tell him we’re staying there the next few nights and he says “welcome home!”


As we exit the van, Troy…the man who greeted us…needles Tim about is St. Louis Cardinals shirt because they’re contending against the Giants for the National League pennant while we’re there.
Check-in’s a breeze and soon we’re off to the second floor to see our room.


Junior Suite doesn’t mean the same thing here as it does at other hotels. I’m used to it meaning a small barrier between the bed and couch and “suite” being more a term of wishful thinking than anything else. Here, it’s an actual suite with a big bedroom completely separated from the living room area by two doors.
The room also features a large, queen size sofabed, a walk-in closet, two large flat screen TVs (that don’t have HD channels, unfortunately), decent bathroom with high end toiletries, and a semi private patio.


The hotel is enough of a historic landmark that a highlight is just exploring the many passageways, nooks and crannies, and hidden surprises around each corner such as 800 year old bells, a 6-story colonnaded rotunda, chapel with original Tiffany stained glass windows, and more.
It’s like spending the night in the Winchester House except without the ghosts.


For a late lunch, we head around the corner to La Cascada, with provides us a decent Mexican lunch.
We come back to do a little more exploring…finding the rooftop garden, the California history themed glockenspiel, hidden patios next to rooms that have housed presidents.


The sparkling swimming pool, in a bougainvillea shrouded patio at the front of the hotel, is inviting on this warm day but we didn’t bring our swim suits. We do notice, however, that there is a lift so that disabled people can get in easily too.



We’ll remember this for next time. For now, it’s time to relax a little bit and get ready for tomorrow where we’ll climb a mountain, run into hordes of zombies, and go to our concert.

Part two is coming soon…
Darryl
Copyright 2012 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Monday, July 4, 2016

Colorado Springs, Colorado



Taking a break from Denver, I get the hotel to shuttle me over to nearby Littleton where I can pick up an accessible rental van from Wheelers. No problems getting there on time or getting the van out. It’s a Chevy Venture with a powered ramp on the side and a Q-Strain tie down system.




Watch the Video!


The van is a little worn around the edges…it has over 80,000 miles on the odometer, the hood does not like to stay closed, you have to heave your weight against the automatic sliding door to get it to shut, and the “Check Engine Light” came on before we had to turn it back in.

It’s also expensive. At $230 for two days, with a 400 mile limit (plus about $50 in gas), it’s about 3 times as much for a decent rental car.

Still, it didn’t break down and got us where we needed to go, with Tim in his chair the entire time.

I take the van back to the hotel to pick up Letty and Tim and we’re off…

About an hour’s drive south of Denver is Colorado Springs, famous as the home of the Air Force Academy and the U.S. Olympic Training Center. It’s also famous for the giant 14,000 foot, snow covered mountain…Pike’s Peak…that hovers over it.

We had originally planned on driving up the toll road to the top of Pike’s Peak but the heavy snowpack has closed the road short of the peak. Instead, we head to the Garden of the Gods.

The Garden of the Gods is a stunning collection of red rocks sticking out of the ground south of town and just east of the peak. It’s also one of the few free or cheap attractions in the area being completely admission free.

We start off at the visitor’s center, across the street from the main entrance, and get a free map from one of the workers. She points out a hidden handicapped parking lot, about a quarter mile past the first big lot, where there’s a trailhead to a paved, accessible trail.

There’s also a deck outside perfectly situated to get views of the park with the massive Pike’s Peak behind it.

We grab a couple of snacks from the café, get back in the van, and head in.



It’s not hard to find our parking lot. There are about a half dozen handicapped spaces…all empty…and we park right next to the trailhead. There is 1.5 miles of this accessible trail winding through the central garden area, home to almost all of the park’s main features.

The first big rock we walk by has a natural arch at the top. Because of its shape, it’s called the “Kissing Camels.” It looks like a couple of dromedaries locked in a smooch.

Just beyond this is a large plaque dedicating the park to free public use forever where there is also a lot of historical graffiti scratched into the rock.

Across the way, several climbers are working their way to the top of another big rock. If you’re an experienced technical climber, with all the proper equipment, you can get a permit to climb at the visitor’s center.

Continuing on, there are points on the path where we can get up close to the rocks and touch them or even get inside some of the nooks and crannies.

We see about a dozen species of birds on the walk, some who stay still for pictures and others who are a bit more fidgety.

After our hike, we get back into the van and go to the other end of the park where there is a huge boulder balancing on top of another rock.

Letty climbs up to get the obligatory pictures but I notice that there are two large deposits of concrete under the rock. Let’s just say that the park staff wants to make sure this rock balances for perpetuity.

It’s one last look at Balancing Rock and then back in the van.

We drive to the high point of the park and see these jets, probably from the nearby Air Force base, practicing over the park.

After a couple of more pictures, we head out.

A few miles away, we drive through an old part of town. There seems to be a medical marijuana outlet on every corner. I’m thinking to myself, it’s already a mile high here…how much higher do you want to be?

Beyond that, we get to our next destination, Seven Falls.



This is another park full of natural beauty but unlike the Garden of the Gods it is not free. In fact, it’s $9.95 per person, which seems a bit steep to look at a waterfall and there is no discount for the disabled. We were able to secure a dollar off coupon on our map of the Garden of the Gods so we at least got that.



There is a gorgeous and very narrow canyon at the entrance. This is also the location of the only restrooms in the park so make sure you stop here first or else it’s a long walk back down.

At the top, there are three handicapped spots and a visitor’s center. A ramp will get you up into that building and to the plaza behind it where you can get up close to the bottom of the falls. There is also a stage here where Native Americans sometimes put on shows.

Next to the visitor’s center is a pool where large trout live. There are vending machines where you can buy fish food for fifty cents.



A toss of the food on the water creates a feeding frenzy.

You’re not supposed to do it, but the local chipmunks will also eat that food right out of your hands. We didn’t do it but many other visitors did.

Across the parking lot from the visitor’s center is a tunnel into the mountain. To the left are some railroad tracks rusting away on the mountainside. These are the remains of an old funicular that took guests up the mountain to a viewing platform.



Today, there’s an elevator at the end of this tunnel.

Visitors can now ride up the lift to the platform and see the complete set of falls.



This is also the accessible way to see the falls.

If you’re strong and able, there is a very long staircase that takes you up to the top of the falls.

We spend a little time up here, soaking in the views, before heading back down, checking out the gift shop, and then heading out of the park.

Originally, we had planned to drive to the top of Pike’s Peak via the toll road there. The toll is just under $40 as of this writing but the snowpack had the road closed short of the peak. I also question whether our little van with the check engine light would have made it up to the 14,100 foot peak.

That plan scratched, we head over to the nearby town of Manitou Springs and visit the Cog Railway. We didn’t take the train, with a cost of over $100 for the three of us, but a special train with a cog to grip the steep slope takes visitors to the top of the mountain.



It looks like a lot of expensive fun. It’s wheelchair accessible but with only two spots on the train, reservations are essential. Call a couple of days ahead to book your space.

The gift shop here is a notch or two above the others in the area so we actually buy a few things here from the very friendly staff.



On the way out of town, we see this big inn and snap a picture. This is Miramont Castle, originally built as a home to the priest who ran the local sanitarium. Quite a residence for someone who’s taken a vow of poverty.

You can now tour the castle and have tea there. We didn’t but there have been lifts installed to help visitors in wheelchairs to see all the levels.

With that, our day trip to Colorado Springs is over and it’s back in the van to return to Denver.

-Darryl

Copyright 2011 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved